Month: July 2013

An evening Bicycle Ride

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More 8X10 Geekery: A post about Gears

SO I bought another camera. Go ahead, say it. This guy has a problem. Nobody needs three 8×10″ view cameras at this time in history. Sacha and I had a rare chance to take a day to go someplace recently. I took her to the George Eastman House. (Never date a photographer.) She loved it. We saw a terrific exhibition pulled from their permanent collection, The Gender Show, a charming, eclectic and mostly SFW look at gender from as many perspectives as possible, featuring beautiful prints by just about everybody you’d expect to see, and some fresh faces too. The thing that struck me most about our visit, however, was the docent that greeted us in the lobby, who without the slightest preamble or introduction, walked directly up to us and proceeded to gleefully predict the total end of film availability within the next 5-10 years. Fair warning. I’m stocking up, but between me and you, it won’t be on Kodak film. That place has always given me the creeps. I can’t help but wonder every time I go in there, in which room did George put a gun to his own chest, who found him, and who had to clean up the mess. Our new docent friend reflected that the company he created also sealed its own fate by inventing digital photography. He was probably just trying a little hard because there were onsite some higher ups observing the staff’s interaction with visitors, but I digress.

Let me begin again. I got a new camera. It’s a really beautiful, lovingly worn 1930’s Century Universal, made right in Rochester New York by the former Century Company that had been absorbed previously by the Kodak photographic empire. Everything works, and it even has the original burgundy colored bellows, in near perfect condition. Take a look at the beautiful schematic drawings filed with the US Patent Office in 1931 by the designer Charles H Roth. Go ahead, get jealous. This camera is not all that easy to find in good condition these days. It was used by both Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, so I guess it will be good enough for me. Of course I’ve been using it as much as possible, leaving my ca. 1900 Century View Camera and 50’s Burke and James 8×10 Commercial View Cameras sulking unused in a corner. The Century is a remarkable camera in its own right, but realistically I’m going to reach for the Universal every time, so if anyone’s looking for a nice Century View, made before Kodak got it’s grubby paws on the company, hit me up. It’s got the extra extension rail, the original restored by me bellows, and except for the screws that attach the ground glass, all of the original hardware & lacquer finish. The wood is intact but for a couple of small & well repaired splits, er, well, except for the part where some sort of animal chewed part if it away, but don’t worry, it’s in a discrete spot & the missing wood just makes it a little lighter to carry, without compromising its structural integrity. This is actually one of the lightest 8×10 cameras you could get and it has huge bellows extension. I have other plans for the Burke and James, so don’t ask. But I digress.

My “new” camera has a bit of a problem too. The rise sometimes falls. The gear that raises and lowers the front standard was a bit “funky” according to the guy who sold it to me, and probably needed some lubrication. As soon as I got the thing in the mail, in a huge box full of a random assortment of packing material, including a bonus t shirt in my size with a logo bragging about the way that Panasonic is revolutionizing photography, I folded the camera open and ran it through all it’s movements. It took about two seconds for me to determine that the front gear was obviously in need of much more than lubrication. I took apart the front standard to find that most of the gear teeth had been almost completely torn off from the shaft. I took some pictures for reference so I could get the thing back together in the right order and sent them to a guy who makes gears along with an elaborate email explaining what I wanted him to make, and painstaking measurements I cleverly assumed he’d be able to use to recreate the 80 year old machined brass part. His return email in full, read, “Just send me the gear..” I’m pretty sure he was laughing at me. The sad thing is that I haven’t been able to part with it. I just keep using the camera with the broken gear and sort of wedging it in place so the front more or less stays where I put it. I really should send him that gear. What’s my point in all this? I don’t know, I just sort of liked the reference photos I shot, so I’m posting them here. I’m confident that I’ll be able to resolve my camera’s little problem, and restore it to its original smooth functioning glory. I’m not so sure my problem is as easily resolved. But I digress…

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Who said its not?

Life really can be a bed of roses!


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Picture Not Taken:

Speeding down US 20 at 70 MPH someplace between Pompei Hill and Fayetteville on my way to get a hopeful filling in my wisdom tooth, I see out my peripheral vision a yellow dog rolling in the gravel driveway of a farmhouse. He has his paws in the air, the midday summer sun on his belly, and a huge grin on his face as he gives that impossible itch exactly the scratch it needs. I pulled over into a shady turnoff a mile later so I could share this moment with you.

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The sound of a printer.

The slow deep rhythm of a well tuned wide format printer calming my evening reminds me that what I’m doing is not so very different from the job I started right after I graduated from high school, working the second shift deep in the cold ceramic tile bowels of the Ford World Headquarters. I was a skinny kid in glasses, finding my mastery conducting a mechanical symphony of roll head contact printers, burning miles and miles of Kodak RC into glossy 8×10’s of gas guzzling monsters gleaming in the fossilized glow of a plastic desert sun.

Those years under the red light must have also burned something into me, because I’ve only been good for working second shift ever since. The last thing my grumpy old boss said to me when I quit to move out west and get an art degree was, “You think you are leaving, but you’ll always come back here.”

At the time I thought he was referring specifically to work at the lab in Ford, and he was half right, because it was hard to swap the relatively easy money to be made cranking out a seemingly infinite reel of soulless industrial imagery to feed the corporate machine’s narcisisstic reflection for the scary, uncertain life of an artist that might end like some Grimm fairy tale of depravity and starvation “out there” that the horrified parents of would be art students have been telling their progeny for untold generations.

After living that very nightmare long enough, I did return years later to work as a photographer, and was astounded to find the same crew still around, and the same petrified cans of miniature wieners in the same gray vending machine. Their company was comforting in its familiar stagnant frustration, yet I was still more gleeful to escape again after another six years for a graduate degree, my soul relatively intact and nothing before me but a million and one shot at landing that mythical job as a professor of photography, which I did, moments before someone fixed the ventilation system and a slight pixelated whiff of impending obsolescence logarithmically escalated into a biblical flood that wiped away the whole analog world, my old job, and the photo department with it.

Ten years later it seems that apocalypses come in cycles, and I’m back to working second shift again, listening to the sound of a different kind of printer.

The old crew at Ford is retired, and I don’t expect that leaky old Hope machine is still alive in the basement either. I wouldn’t go back there even if I could, but maybe that old lab boss was talking about something bigger.

I’d never have suspected him of the imagination.

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Double Rainbow!!

Lately I”ve been feeling a little down. My skies have been gloomy, and my parade has been canceled due to rain. Every single day. The job hunt, in other words, just hasn’t been going my way. Who the Hell sends out rejection letters on the Fourth of July? I know who, but I suppose it would be some sort of breach of professional courtesy to name names. I Just hope I never get that bitter.

Then I saw it.
A rainbow.

I even managed to get a few pictures out the car window with my iPhone as we sped home from our Day after Independence day cookout at Sacha’s mom’s house, during which I won a one dollar bet that her mother would indeed serve Hoffman’s Hot Dogs. I also managed to make a single 8×10 exposure of our little gathering, minus myself, with my newly acquired Fujinon 300mm 5.6 lens.

In spite of my winning wager, a potentially iconic photograph, some truly delicious grilled meat, and even a rainbow, I still wasn’t satisfied.

I wanted a Double Rainbow. through the hot dog grease glazed glass of my previous gen iPhone, all I could make out was a run-of- the-mill-end-of-the-storm partial arc. We all instinctively know that the quotidian single rainbow has lost its potency to inspire Hope due to the tragic Instagram Aural Vacuum effect, compounded by the instant availability of a Global HDR Rainbow Imagery Database that raises rainbow saturation expectation quotients far beyond what the natural Rainbow Occurrence Rate could possibly Hope to accommodate, that is if a natural phenomenon can have Hope of its own.

But tonight, or this morning, rather, I decided to upload the images I took with my Sony Nex-7 over the weekend. I just recalled that the battery had failed in my smartphone right at the Instant of the Rainbow Encounter, and I had grabbed the Sony to make a few more Hopeful exposures, not in any Hopes of capturing an image of the Metaphor of Hope itself, but more as a technical exercise in producing a watered down double ironicized meta cliche of the dregs of inauthenticity that have been left to us latter day digital pilgrims.

You could hardly imagine my surprise then, as I discovered on reexamining a number of these images on upload, a REAL DOUBLE RAINBOW! OMG! Maybe there is Hope after all! I’ll apply for a job at the Crowne Plaza immediately!

I’m truly sorry if you were expecting a Triple Rainbow. Nobody promised you a Triple Rainbow. Have you become so desensitized that a Double Rainbow isn’t enough?

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Dropped my thermometer

into my 3 1/2 gallon tank of D-76. Damn. That’s too deep for me to fish out with my silly disposable latex gloves. Maybe if I take a picture with my phone I can read the temp……


Nope it’s too far down!
What If I apply a “s” curve and some sharpening ?


Crop it And sharpen some more


I see that the developer is still at 76.5 degrees. Too warm for X ray film shot in full sun to get a developing time of more than 5 minutes, which is the minimum I’m comfortable with to avoid uneven development on this film. Maybe if I run the AC for a couple more hours…

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